Skip to main content

Full text of "Jazz at the Pawnshop"

See other formats


For  the  2xHD  transfer  of  this  recording,  the  original 
1/4",  1 5 ips  CCIR  master  tape  was  played  on  a 
NAGRA  IV-STape  recorder  - the  same  model  as 
used  in  the  original  recording  - with  a pair  of 
Dolby  361 , using  a hi-end  tube  pre-amplifier  with 
OCC  silver  clables.  We  did  an  analog  transfer  for 
each  HiRez  sampling  and  A & B comparisons 
were  made  with  both  the  original  LP,  using  the 
Kronos  turntable,  as  well  as  the  best  available 
CD,  using  the  Nagra  HD  Dac  and  dCS  Vivaldi  DAC, 
throughout  the  process. 

1 92kHz  was  done  using  Ayre  QA9pro 

DSD  was  done  using  dCS  905  and  dCS  Vivaldi 

DXD  352.8kHz  was  done  using  dCS  905  and  dCS 
Vivaldi  clock 

DSD2  was  done  using  Ayre  QA9pro 

Rene  Laflamme,V.P.  Engineering 

We  capture  the  feeling. 

When  recording  engineer  Gert  Palmcrontz  was  loading  his  car  with  equipment  outside  Europe  Film  Studios  on  December 

6th,  1 976,  it  was  only  to  make  one  of  many  recordings.  No-one  knew  then  that  it  was  to  become  a cult  recording  among 
audiophiles  and  one  of  the  most  appreciated  jazz-recordings  ever  made. 

Palmcrantz  put  the  equipment  in  the  car  and  drove  off  to  Stampen,  the  jazz  club  in  Gamla  Stan  in  Stockholm. 

It  was  far  from  the  first  time  for  him  to  record  jazz  at  Stampen.  The  club,  named  after  a pawnbrokers'  shop  which  used  to  be  in 
that  block,  opened  in  1 968.  That  same  year,  Gert  was  there  to  make  a recording  of,  amongst  others,  the  clarinettist  Ove  Lind,  the 
vibmphonist  Lars  Erstrand  and  the  drummer  Egil  Johansen.  He  was  subsequently  to  meet  the  latter  two  again  at  Stampen's  small 
stage,  together  with  saxophonist  Arne  Domnerus,  pianist  Bengt  Hallberg  and  bass-player 
Georg  Riedel.  Palmcrantz  knew  them  well  from  before. 

It  wasn't  particularly  cold  and  there  was  no  snow,  despite  it  being  the  beginning  of  December.  Palmcrantz  arrived  in  good  time 
in  order  to  get  everything  ready  before  the  band  started  to  play  at  nine-ish  that  evening. 

All  those  who  have  visited  Stampen  know  that  the  ceiling  is  about  four  metres  high  and  that  the  venue  houses  around  80 
people.  The  stage  is  situated  in  the  right-hand  corner  seen  from  the  entrance,  and  is  so  small  that  it  only  just  carries  a grand  piano  and 
a small  band.  Palmcrantz  rigged  the  main  microphones  facing  the  stage,  about  two  metres  above  the  floor.  These  microphones  were 
Neumann  LJ47  cardioids,  standing  1 5-20  cm  from  each  other  and  inclined  at  an  angle  of  1 1 0 to  1 35  degrees. 

Palmcrantz  had  been  perfecting  this  arrangement  of  microphones  for  several  years:  a couple  of  O.R.T.F.-stereo  microphones  as  a 
basis  and  auxiliary  microphones  where  necessary.  The  O.R.T.F.-stereo  — named  after  the  French  radio  which  introduced  this  simplified 
kunstkopf  technique  at  the  beginning  of  the  sixties  — was,  according  to  Palmcrantz,  the  best  method  for  optimal  stereo  effect  and 
spatiality.  — Real  stereo-effect  can  only  be  achieved  by  placing  the  microphones  in  a similar  way  to  the  disposition  of  the  ears. 

Such  a couple  stood  in  front  of  the  stage  at  Stampen  and  another  couple  was  placed  to  the  right  of  the  stage,  facing  the 
audience  in  order  to  recreate  the  right  "live"  feeling.  A supplementary  microphone  was  placed  next  to  the  grand  piano  standing  on  the 
right-hand  side  of  the  platform  with  its  lid  open,  and  Palmcrantz  hung  two  cardioid  Neumann  KM56s  over  the  drums  on  the  left  side. 
The  bass,  standing  in  the  middle,  and  connected  to  a little  combo  amplifier  on  a chair,  was  supported  by  a Neumann  M49,  also  in 
omnidirectional  mode.  The  microphone  was  placed  in  such  a way  that  it  caught  sound  both  from  the  instrument  and  from  the  amplifier. 

Once  the  microphones  were  set  out,  all  that  was  needed  was  to  connect  them  all  up.  In  those  days  there  were  no  multi-cables, 
so  one  had  to  lead  all  the  eight  cables  from  the  stage,  past  the  bar  and  through  the  kitchen  to  a little  nook  between  a refrigerator  and 
a pile  of  beercrates  where  Palmcrantz  had  built  his  makeshift  studio:  a Studer-mixer,  two  Dolby  A 361  noise  reduction  units  and  two 
Nagra  IV  recorders  which  he  used  alternately  since  the  seven-inch  reels  only  last  for  1 5 minutes  at  38  cm/second.  He  adjusted  the 
U47  microphones  slightly  over  1 0 000  hz  in  the  trebble.  The  audition  was  made  through  two  old  Ampex  monitor  loudspeakers  with 

- 5 - 

built-in  omplifiers. 

Gert  Palmcrantz  has  described  how  it  sounded  when  he  later  listened  through  the  first  test  reel: 

Following  a few  test  tones  there  is  a trial  run  of  an  almost  empty  room.  The  clattering  of  chairs  and  tables  and  clinking  glass 
emerge  in  almost  three  dimensional  stereo.  I have  just  rigged  my  faithful  U47s  above  the  stage  and  put  a test  reel  on  the  tope 
recorder  I mutter  something  about  a broken  wire  to  the  piano  mic  on  the  right,  swearing  as  my  finger  is  caught  in  the  mic  stand  by  the 
drums,  and  I order  a tankard  of  beer  in  advance. 

Then  there  is  a commotion  at  the  other  end  and  I recognize  Egil  Johansen's  contagious  laughter  as  he  and  Arne  Domnerus 
come  bursting  in,  kidding  each  other  amiably  as  they  approach  the  stage.  Various  ceremonies  take  place  and  Arne  quips  at  me.  'Well, 
here  we  go  again.  So,  nothing  escapes  you  — thank  God!  Ha-ha-ha!" 

A hubbub  ensues.  The  audience  has  arrived  in  high  spirits.  On  stage  you  can  hear  Bengt  Hallberg  running  his  fingers  over  the 
keys,  Egil  Johansen  tightening  the  skins  and  Georg  Riedel  plucking  the  bass. 

The  smell  of  smoked  sausage  and  foaming  beer  blending  with  that  of  the  more  familiar  scent  of  sour  wine  corks  and  detergent, 
lingers  over  the  sound  image.  "Dompan"  (Arne  Domnerus)  kicks  off  Over  the  Rainbow  and  the  audience  simmers  down  to  an 
approving  murmur. 

No  soundcheck  or  balance  test  were  actually  made.  Once  the  quartet  had  started  playing,  Palmcrantz  quickly  had  to  set  the 
levels  as  precisely  as  possible.  After  two  tunes  he  had  managed  to  achieve  the  right  balance. 

Gert  Palmcrantz  taped  one  song  after  the  other,  alternating  recorders  towards  the  end  of  each  quarter  of  an  hour  so  that 
he  could  join  the  tunes  that  were  played  in-between  tapes.  It  is  interesting  to  note  how  accomplished  the  musicians  were,  since 
everything  could  only  be  recorded  in  one  go  without  any  cuts.  There  is  one  exception,  however:  at  the  end  of  one  of  his  drum  solos, 
Egil  Johansen  happened  to  miss  a beat  and  messed  up  his  entry  a little.  Gert  Palmcrantz  cut  that  measure  out  and  those  who  want  to 
can  amuse  themselves  by  trying  to  find  this  almost  imperceptible  cut. 

Otherwise,  Gert  Palmcrantz  let  the  music  flow  freely  and  hardly  touched  the  dials  at  all  — no  gain  riding,  simply  small 
adjustments  were  made  for  solos  or  when  the  applause  from  the  audience  became  too  loud.  The  result  was  about  two  and  a half 
hours  worth  of  taped  music  every  night.  The  second  night,  the  band  was  joined  by  the  vibraphonist  Lars  Erstrand. 

— He  arrived  earlier  than  the  others  to  have  plenty  of  time  to  set  up  his  instrument,  remembers  Palmcrantz. 

Lars  Erstrand  was  testing  his  vibraphone  only  to  find  that  one  of  the  fans  was  squeaking.  Palmcrantz  bad  to  go  and  find  a bottle 
of  maize  oil  in  the  kitchen  for  Erstrand  to  lubricate  the  axle. 

Then  the  rest  of  the  band  arrived  and  the  recording  could  begin,  practically  with  the  same  arrangement  of  microphones  as  the 
previous  evening.  The  difference  was  that  the  stage  was  a little  more  crowded  this  time,  as  can  be  heard  in  comparison.  Lars  Erstrand 

- 6 - 

popped  in  to  the  control  room  to  hear  that  the  vibraphone  sounded  OK. 

After  the  recording,  the  original  tapes  were  edited  to  a double  LP  by  Gert  Palmcrantz  in  consultation  with  the  musicians  and 
the  producer.  The  sound  quality  of  this  record  soon  won  the  reputation  of  being  very  high,  much  to  the  surprise  of  Palmcrantz  and  the 
musicians  who  thought  their  earlier  recordings  were  just  as  good.  Something,  however,  must  have  been  just  right  this  time,  and  one 
mustn't  forget  that  clever  musicians  with  imagination,  sensitivity  and  a feeling  for  nuance,  are  the  absolute  requirement  for  a recording 
to  take  the  step  from  being  "good"  to  being  "fantastic". 

It  is  a well-known  fact  that  there  are  all  too  many  bad  records  with  an  impressive  sound  quality.  Palmcrantz'  microphone 
technique  transmits  Bengt  Hallberg's  subtle  touch,  Arne  Domnerus'  characteristic  tone  and  Egil  Johansen's  distinctive  drumming  — and 
all  instrumentalists  are  presented  in  one  sound  image  which  is  both  intimate  and  global. 

On  really  good  equipement  you  can  hear  people  eating,  the  clinking  of  cutlery  against  the  plates  or  conversations  round 
the  small  circular  tables.  Here  and  there,  among  the  chink  of  glasses  and  the  rattling  of  the  till,  you  can  clearly  hear  the  musicians 
talking,  difficult  to  understand  for  listeners  who  don't  speak  Swedish.  "What's  the  tempo?"  someone  asks  before  Limehouse  Blues, 
followed  by  the  comment  "First  take,  tempo".  After  I'm  confessin',  a jolly  man  in  the  audience  exclaims  "Hey!  That  was  a good 
old  song!".  Sometimes  you  can  hear  other  music  in  the  background  — that  of  a jazz  band  playing  at  Gamlingen,  In  the  basement 
at  Stampen.  There  are  undoubtedly  many  details  to  be  discovered  here. 

Gert  Palmcrantz  records  music  at  Stampen  more  or  less  yearly.  Here  and  in  other  places  he  has  recorded  many  of  the  music- 
world's  greatest:  Dizzy  Gillespie,  Duke  Ellington,  Ray  Charles  and  Bobby  McFerrin.  He  prefers  to  make  live  recordings  and  almost 
always  directly  onto  two  tracks.  His  ideal  is  the  old  78  rpm  record:  a method  of  documentation  where  the  path  from  the  musicians  to 
the  recorder  is  at  its  most  direct,  with  few  intermediaries  and  no  cuts.  That  is  his  philosophy  as  a sound  technician  — the  meaningful 
link  between  musician  and  listener. 

Stefan  Navermyr 

Translation:  Isabel  Thomson 

- 7 - 

Essentially,  of  course,  it  is  all  a question  of  love.  Love  of  roots,  origins,  a musical  habitat.  Call  it  swing  or  third 
stream  jazz  if  you  want  to,  or  mainstream  or  traditionalism.  Associated  with  the  solid  precursors  of  the  20s, 
30s  and  40s  with  Armstrong,  Benny  Goodman,  Bunny  Berigan,  Coleman  Hawkins.  Or  quite  simply  with  all 
tunes  that  were  written  when  it  all  happened  and  which  long  ago  planted  themselves,  legs  apart  and  hands  on 
hips,  in  the  folklore  of  twentieth  century  America. 

Use  wich  ever  words  you  like.  But  don't  talk  about  nostalgia  — at  least  not  in  the  mawkish  sense  we  usually 
employ  the  term.  For  nostalgia  — to  dedicated  musicians,  just  as  to  conscious  listeners  — remains  a question  of 
quality,  not  a matter  of  annular  rings  and  laments  for  lost  time.  We  love  Frank  Sinatra,  not  because  he  embodied 
middle  age,  suffering  and  transitory  brilliance  but  because  he  happened  to  be  an  incomparable  vocalist.  We  were 
struck  dumb  by  Charlie  Parker,  not  just  because  he  belonged  to  the  postwar  era  and  our  very  own  decade  of  the 
1 940s  (as  did  so  many  others  inferior  to  him)  but  because  on  his  way  between  birth  and  downfall  he  contrived  to 
blow  a few  phrases,  the  like  of  which  the  world  had  never  heard. 

Nor,  turning  to  consider  this  affectionate  production,  do  we  love  the  old  songs  because  they  are  old;,  we  love 
them  because  they  are  good.  They  were  written  at  a time  when  standards  were  high  and  when  imagination  and 
harmonic  inspiration  still  seemed  Inexhaustible. 

Where  in  Stockholm  should  the  afficionados  foregather  if  not  at  Stampen,  the  former  pawnshop  in  the  Old 
City,  the  music  pub  that  developed  into  a Swedish  offshoot  of  St.  Germain-des-Pres? 

Stampen  is  in  fact  one  of  the  most  be-stomped  sanctuaries  of  Swedish  jazz.  It  is  a place  of  movement  in 
more  than  one  sense;  in  an  atmosphere  redolent  of  beer  and  improvisation,  medieval  history  and  ancient  timber. 

The  accompanists  and  the  soloists  come  and  go,  and  the  signs  enjoin  to  play  Happy  Jazz. 

This  does  not  prevent  the  jazz  from  being  unhappy  — for  which  read:  pensive  — at  times,  if  pensive  is  the  right 
word  for  such  classical  and  american  manifestations  as  the  blues,  ballads  and  torch  songs. 

Scott  Fitzgerald  once  defined  seven  as  the  maximum  number  for  pleasant  company.  If  he  is  right  — and 
members  of  the  immortal  big  bands  have  had  reason  to  doubt  it  — then  the  players  in  this  album,  being  five  in 
number,  are  on  the  safe  side.  In  december  1 976  they  assembled  at  Stampen  to  demonstrate  their  affection. 

One  of  them  is  Arne  Domnerus  (alto  sax  and  clarinet).  It  Is  usually  said  of  most  Swedish  jazz  musicians.  In 
adulatory  moments,  that  they  sound  like  somebody  else,  meaning  of  course  an  American.  So  there  is  little  need 
to  say,  yet  again,  that  Domnerus'  inspiration  comes  from  a source  halfway  between  Johnny  Hodges  and  Charlie 

- 9 - 

Parker.  Let  us  instead  say  that,  like  Muhammed  Ali,  he  has  the  flight  of  a butterfly  and  the  sting  of  a bee.  And 
tonally  speaking  he  seems  at  the  moment  to  have  the  loveliest  wings  in  Sweden. 

Another  of  the  five  is  pianist  Bengt  Hallberg  — mild,  eclectic  and  full  of  surprises.  The  odd  thing  about  bim  is 
that  he  has  seldom  been  said  to  sound  like  anybody  but  Bengt  Hallberg.  Consequently  he  is  international.  Sceptics 
need  only  flick  through  any  bundle  of  jazz  magazines  that  happens  to  come  their  way. 

The  third  man  is  Lars  Erstrand,  vibes.  Allegations  of  his  following  in  the  footsteps  of  Lionel  Hampton  are 
refuted  by  the  suspicion,  yet  to  be  disproved,  that  a year  or  so  ago,  whatever  the  reason  may  have  been,  the  pupil 
gained  half  a length  on  his  teacher.  During  the  swing  epoch,  the  talk  used  to  be  of  killer-dillers  and  solid  senders. 
Lars  Erstrand  belongs  to  the  same  school.  When  he  casts  off  his  shirt  buttons  and  moorings,  be  is  apt  to  become 

Eourth  and  fifth  come  Georg  Riedel  and  Egil  Johansen,  bass  and  drums  respectively. 

As  accompaniment  and  tandem  they  resemble  the  rock  of  Gibraltar,  which  — if  we  may  be  allowed  a gentle 
understatement  — also  means  a firm  ground  under  the  feet  of  the  soloists. 

Their  repertoire  includes  a few  break-outs.  Paul  Desmond's  Take  Five  underlined  in  quintuple  time  is  one  of 
them,  and  the  African  folk  tune  High  Life  is  another. 

Otherwise  we  find  ourselves  at  home  with  the  old  ones  and  the  big  ones.  At  home  with  Hawkins  in  Stuffy, 
with  Goodman  in  Limehouse  Blues,  with  Parker  in  Barbados,  with  Hodges  in  Jeep's  Blues. 

And  with  all  of  them  in  a couple  of  evergreens  such  as  Lady  Be  Good.  And  a piece  like  I'm  confessin'  has  been 
played  by  every  single  jazz  musician  with  a normal  degree  of  self  respect  ever  since  the  partners  Doc  Dougherty 
and  Ellis  Reynolds  agreed  on  it  in  the  1 930s. 

What  is  worth  saying  about  the  remaining  ballads?  Only  this:  give  a soloist  a ballad  and  he  will  show  his 
innermost  capability.  Through  his  manner  of  telling  a story,  perhaps  conveying  an  experience,  with  his  very  own 
pauses  and  subordinate  clauses,  reservations  and  emphases.  Ballads  are  remorseless.  They  will  have  no  truck  with 
the  tawdry. 

Arne  Domnerus  and  his  friends  had  some  long  stories  to  tell  at  Stampen  in  December  1 976,  stories  we 
could  do  well  to  listen  to. 

Eor  essentially,  of  course,  it  is  all  a question  of  love. 

- 10  - 

6eorg  Riedel  bass  | EgiUobansen,  drums 



HJOti  Life 

jSi/T7/w’  wffli#rtf'8Al?f£Q 


LADY  Bf  toot)